Book review: “The Alley” by Eleanor Estes

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The Alley
by Eleanor Estes

Connie Ives is a gentle, sweet little girl who loves her mom and dad and her spicy, Southern grandmother, and the alley where they live. Nestled on a college campus in Brooklyn, the T-shaped alley is surrounded by brick houses where professors and their families live. The alley provides a sheltered place for children to play, from bossy Katy to rotten brat Anthony, from the two little boys who like to pretend to be Zorro to the future actor who likes to quote lines from Gilbert and Sullivan operas. But with all the things to do in the alley, the thing Connie likes best is to sit on her swing. And of all the boys and girls who could be her best friend, the one who is most special is Billy Maloon.

Billy is small for his age, softspoken, and often afraid. But he is also brave, thoughtful, and loyal. It is worth reading this book simply to experience the puppy love between these two children – but there is more. A gang of burglars targets Connie’s neighborhood, starting with her house. Connie’s mother suspects that a couple of crooked policemen may have stolen treasures that the burglars left behind. And what starts as a children’s game of make-believe becomes a daring mission to catch the crooks before they can strike again.

Eleanor Estes proved, time and again, that she had a special knack for writing lovable stories from the point of view of children. As she did with Cranbury Connecticut in her series of books on the Moffat and Pye families, she now does with a charmed and charming little neighborhood in New York City. She makes the alley a special place where everyday things become full of beauty and delight, and where a timeless story about a stage in growing up can combine with a true-to-life picture of an identifiable moment in history.

There is a companion book about Connie’s alley, titled The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode.